Self-publishing essentials with Ellie Marney: Crowdfunding your book release
Got a book written and not sure how to pay for production? In self-publishing, the initial costs of editing, creating a cover, typesetting and formatting—and sometimes printing and distribution—are all borne by the author-publisher, who hopes to recoup their money once the book is released. But if you don’t have the money to invest upfront, you might like to explore crowdfunding as an option.
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a way to pre-sell a product to raise the funds necessary for the creator to manufacture and distribute it. These days, crowdfunding seems to be used for everything from philanthropic interests to artistic projects. It has been used effectively by authors like Paul Kingsnorth and Seth Godin to raise capital for a book’s production.
What’s the process?
A crowdfunding platform is used to advertise a potential book project. Individual backers contribute funds to the project, and once the target level of funding is reached, the book goes into production. Backers don’t get an equity stake—all project rights are retained by the self-publisher, who offers a staggered series of rewards to early supporters of the project in exchange for their backing.
The primary steps are:
- Create a business plan for your crowdfunding campaign: You’ll need to figure out your expenses for book production, the timeline for the launch, who you plan to target with your campaign, your overall budget and marketing strategy, what rewards you’re prepared to offer your backers, and what hurdles you might need to overcome.
- Choose your platform: The most popular ones for self-publishers are Publishizer, Indiegogo and Kickstarter, but you might also like to look at Australian platforms like Pozible, or collaborative publisher-funders like Unbound or Inkshares.
- Create a crowdfunding campaign page: You will need a strong headline, a book blurb, a sales video and defined reward tiers. Check out other publishing crowdfunding campaigns to get an idea of what to develop.
- Launch your campaign: Crowdfunding is about momentum. Getting strong support in the early days of the campaign’s launch are essential.
- Follow-through on your campaign: Once your campaign is completed, you will need to deliver the rewards you promised your supporters, and produce and release your book.
Be realistic about your target goals—$10,000 for a fiction book is considered a high benchmark—and remember, you have to pay the platform up to 30% of your raised capital. Your book’s genre can also have an impact on your campaign success: nonfiction, fantasy and science fiction all seem to do best.
What are the benefits?
Apart from supplying much-needed funds, crowdfunding allows you to fine-tune your book’s pitch, create buzz around your book’s release, and find an eager audience before the book has even launched. It also gives your book instant credibility through visible proof of demand, and allows you to connect with readers in a type of direct collaboration.
What are the drawbacks?
It can be time-consuming—particularly in the pre- and post-campaign periods. Crowdfunding campaigns are won or lost in the planning, so you have to be highly organised. You need to have your head around marketing and promo to make it work well. And if your book’s genre isn’t tempting to backers, you might have trouble getting off the ground.
Case study: Alison Croggon and Fleshers
Alison, can you walk us through the process you went through to crowdfund your book Fleshers?
We launched our campaign through Pozible, a huge platform that has the advantage of being Australian—you get paid in AU dollars, rather than having to pay international transfer fees. We mocked up some images (our son knows how to make and edit videos, so he took care of the video), put together a blurb of what we wanted to do, and figured out our rewards for pledges. Then I put together a list of emails—friends, acquaintances, people who might support us—to contact once the campaign was launched, and nagged everyone we knew to spread the word.
When people started pledging, I was surprised by how amazing it felt. It was such a buzz to know that people were interested in helping us! We were aiming for $3000 and raised $3730, and that was awesome.
Any advice for those looking at crowdfunding as a self-publishing support option?
The biggest thing is to use an Australian platform. And I heard some stories about people who spent more fulfilling pledges than they raised, so be precise and careful about what you’re offering. Remember, Paypal and credit card fees also come out of your pledges—budget those in as about 8% of your total budget.
Be organised and brave. And unembarrassed about nagging people.
Ellie Marney is a teacher and hybrid YA author. She lives in Victoria with her family, and her latest book, White Night (Allen & Unwin), was published in March 2018. Find her at www.elliemarney.com or on Twitter or Instagram.